FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bryan Clay and Adam Nelson were among the Olympians who addressed Victor Conte's recent steroid accusations.
Recent Olympians fire
back at ‘drug dealer’
They came to discuss the true frequency of steroid use among Olympic athletes, but only one of five panelists used numbers to help the audience fully understand.
"From my experiences, and this is a guess, I'd say about 5 to 10 percent of the athletes dabble in it," said 2004 Athens Olympics silver medal-winning shot-putter Adam Nelson.
Nelson was at the Hawaii Convention Center yesterday along with decathlon silver medalist Bryan Clay, long jump gold medalist Dwight Phillips, high jump fourth-place finisher Jamie Nieto, and Paul Doyle, a U.S. track and field coach. They attended a press conference, set up by the organizers of Sunday's 2004 Honolulu Marathon.
"Absolutely," Nelson said, when asked if he can tell by looking at an athlete if they're taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs. "If you know somebody and have seen them performing for three, four or five years on a normal basis, then you can tell when something has changed. Almost overnight, they'll be bigger and all of a sudden their performances become a lot better than what their previous potential was."
But Clay, who graduated from Castle, thinks it's dangerous to judge people by their looks.
"Some athletes train to peak, so their bodies will fluctuate even if they aren't on steroids," he said. "My body weight can change by 5 to 20 pounds, depending on where I'm at in my training."
Asked about accusations of Marion Jones' alleged steroid use, all five declined to give their opinion as to whether she uses the juice or not.
"If she is clean, a lot of people owe her an apology," Nelson said. "If it's her word against Victor Conte's, we'll believe her."
All five took offense to BALCO founder Conte's statements on ABC's 20/20 last week.
"He (Conte) said the Olympics is a fraud and that all of the athletes are dirty and that all the athletes have no choice but to go on steroids," Doyle said. "Bryan (Clay) called me during that segment and was very frustrated about what was being said."
That conversation led to yesterday's press conference.
"We take pride in ourselves and what we do," Clay said. "We care about how we're portrayed on and off the track. We're here to say that we have done it clean, the right way, with morals and integrity. I think it's important that people hear the other side of the story."
All five said they're frustrated that Conte is getting a lot of attention. Nelson called Conte, whose laboratory created the banned substance THG, "a drug dealer and tax evader."
Nieto would like to see other sports adopt stricter rules against steroids.
"We (in track and field) have a zero-tolerance policy," he said. "Let's see the NFL or the NBA or hockey or whatever other sport do that."
Nelson didn't hesitate criticizing former baseball star Mark McGwire, who admitted taking Androstenedione (which hadn't been banned by baseball yet) when he was still playing.
"It's guys like Mark McGwire who make young athletes think it's OK. They hear he's doing it and they want to do it, too."
Clay thinks it's important for people as high up as President George W. Bush to take initiative to find those who cheat by taking drugs and to educate the public about the dangers.
Those dangers scare Nieto.
"I don't want to die in five years," he said. "I don't want to take a substance that is going to enlarge my heart and my organs and cause heart failure."
Phillips would like to see jail time for offenders.
"Victor Conte is out there peddling steroids, and we need to put guys like that in jail," he said.
"Jail time would make athletes think twice," Nieto added.
Prior to the press conference, all five panelists talked about the possibility of forming an organization dedicated to fighting steroid use.
"It's just a matter of putting it together," Nelson said.